Category Archives: Filmmaking

All the writing!

A guy surrounded by paper
A guy (actor Graeme Dalling) sitting on the floor surrounded by paper

I love writing and I love learning. This year has been a pretty good year, all in all. Currently I’m writing more than I have for a while.
I came across RoadMap Writers a couple of years ago, and since then have taken quite a few classes with them. I chose classes based on what the subject is and who the tutor is. All their tutors work in the industry, mostly in LA, so everyone is very connected to the film and TV industry there.
I’ve found their courses to be really good, always enjoyable, and the knowledge has been super useful.
This month, I’ve been doing my first private mentorship with someone who works at a management company, and I’m also doing a development 101 writing class, where we’re developing material – characters, outlines, etc for a pilot which we’ll go away at the end of the month and write the actual script for.
Ultimately, I like learning different ways of working, and they’ve both taught me different process’ which is useful.
With both classes, for the different projects, we’ll have very detailed discussions about character and story. The development class is actually really good as although it’s a group class, where normally there’s at least four students, this one there’s just two, so we both get lots of time with the exec to talk through our ideas.
So by the end of both classes, I’ll have enough to write two half hour pilots, which will add to my portfolio of spec scripts. A third one, which I finished already, based on a feature idea of mine, I’ve just sent to one production company and am going to email it to another, along with a couple of agents.
It’s interesting that I spoke to another writer at a networking event a while back and he spoke highly of the 30 page spec script – they actually have a lot going for them, especially if they’re good. They’re a quick read, and easy (most of the time) to digest, especially over a feature script. Something new for this year also is that I’ve been getting out there in the TV industry more, and am planning to send my new spec to a few places and hopefully it may even get me some meetings.

Producing Course

Way back in February I attended a producing course run by producer Richard Holmes. It was a one day course run by London Screenwriters Festival. I took a whole load notes and thought I’d share my thoughts about it here.
There was a lot of great information, and Richard was very honest about his work as well as telling us one or two things that shouldn’t leave the room (so I won’t be telling you about those!)
Some of the stuff, with myself having been a few years, I already knew, but it was the personal experience and anecdotes that really helped and filled in the gaps of knowledge.
It was great to hear about his success stories out of the 11 or so films that he’s been able to produce, 3 or 4 of them made a profit, and there was some variety in his work too.
He also told us about his experience with investors, and how if you do a presentation to just four people, then those four will know others who inevitably will have money to invest.
That to me is the trickiest bit – the finding of investors. I’ve personally been close to working with people who could potentially find investors, and now looking back I’m glad I didn’t, because nothing was ready, which would have been. Major problem if someone asked to read a script!
Now I’m in a much better position and know exactly what my next steps are. I sort of new in coming to the course I don’t really want to be a producer, but I’m still fascinated by the idea of it. I think because I, like some other filmmakers, became a producer by ‘default’ on a few of my shorts. But as much as I’m interested in it and have my own production company (so in a sense would be at least a ‘co producer’ on anything I do) it’s always great to work with a team, and work with someone else to take most of the producing work on. Not to mention the budgets!
Overall though Richards course was really useful in clarifying things, especially expectations when it comes to being a producer.
You can follow Richard on twitter at https://twitter.com/bigrichfilms?lang=en

The Randomness of All Things

I attended a writing workshop the other day, in Sutton library run by Rachel Sambrook. It was pretty good & I was impressed by how well attended it was. We had some exercises to do but the first one was simply introducing ourselves. There was my friend Richard & I, a couple of others who’d written quite a bit, and the rest were just beginners.
I was all prepared with my laptop to arrive & work on my book, it was a writing class after all. But then we were given a couple of writing exercises that were pretty good. One was writing a list of failures, as one of the points Rachel made that there were no real failures in writing, & this is true especially when you’re starting out – don’t focus on the pressure to have something that works straight away. Then after a couple more exercises we did some free writing.
After the workshop we went to Nandos, and one of the participants who was very friendly joined us. This really impressed me actually because it’s not easy to just meet new random people, especially as the workshop was only an hour during lunch time. So the 3 of us ended up in Nandos, and Aridja turned out to be just starting out as a vlogger. She got her camera out & started recording about meeting us & having Nandos, and she came across as very natural on camera. We ended up talking about Oprah, and saying who ever gets to meet her first can tell her about each other. So watch this space!

EMILIA!

I saw the play Emilia yesterday, and my god am I glad I did. I noticed the reviews, (twitter is normally where I keep up with these things) and noticed it was at The Globe Theatre, but I never got to see it there, despite all the buzz around it. Then it transferred to the West End and so I booked last week to go this week. The play follows the journey of poet Emilia Bassano, who was apparently quite close to Shakespeare in the 1600’s, but also a writer in her own right who never quite found the means, and follows her journey through the times. I’ve read reviews saying that some of the claims the play makes about her life are quite contentious, but I’m not too worried by that personally (others have made the same claims too).
What was most interesting to me about the play, aside from some of the cast being disabled – and in quite prominent roles too
is that it used a lot of narration to tell the story, which makes me quite happy.

My first play was a one man play, so it was all narration, and then in developing my play The 49, it was a mix of narration and scenes. My new play, which I’ve called Comfort In The Voices Of Me, is all scenes. Writing the early drafts were a bit like pulling teeth, because I often struggle with writing long scenes, especially coming from a film background. But seeing Emilia, which filled my heart with joy and made me very happy, for various reasons, was a mix of both narrating directly to the audience and scenes. There were also three actors playing Emilia, at different ages, and they were also introduced at the beginning of the play. I’d love to go much more in depth in to the different types of theatre, particularly in relation to narrating directly to an audience vs not doing it. There’s no reason for narration in any play with more than one actor, but I like using it as a style, and Emilia used the technique very effectively and was equally as entertaining.
I do hope the play gets another run soon. If it goes on tour I’m definitely seeing it again.

Emilia was on at The Globe before transferring to Vaudeville Theatre until 1st June, and is written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

This One & The Next


I was doing box office on the penultimate day of Wandsworth Fringe 2019, having done my own show Hidden for the past 2 days. This was the 4th time I’ve done WAF in the 10 years it’s been running.

It’s been good to revisit my play ‘HIDDEN’ again, especially with Niall Phillips directing.

I feel like Niall totally got the play, as did actor McKenzie Alexander. He brought a performance that I haven’t seen before. Not afraid to do the gay parts of the script, and was believable in the new parts about being born with a deformity.

It’s also been interesting to see where to expand the play, and wonder whether something is only a 45 minute piece, whether it could be longer without feeling forced.

With Niall I also talked about what to do with it next & indeed, why we do theatre in the first place.

For me, I think it was about becoming a produced writer with a longer piece of writing. Sure, I’ve made short films & got funding for them, as I have with my memoir and Hidden this time round, following R & D funding in 2013.

But what’s the next step? And is it the same for every theatre maker? I’m not sure it is, but that’s a whole other blog! But the next step for me is to make a choice.

Well, actual next step for me is to start sending my book out to agents. I feel like it’s definitely ready for that.

Then on the play writing side I want to develop THE 49 into a longer play. But with my next film, I don’t just want to make another short film shot on a Canon 5D. Next step for me I think is to work with crew who’ve made feature films, so a great DOP, and then a ‘star’ name. I most want to make something next that the industry takes notice of.

So that’s the next challenge. To do something that makes a big ‘splash’. To work with really great people, and to get noticed. This could be a lot of people, or more realistically, it could just be a few people in the industry that will know my name because they saw my work. And one thing leads to another, which leads to another, and you just keep going. I think the people that keep going eventually get to the ‘top’.

The Year So Far

McKenzie Alexander stars in Hidden, Directed by Niall Phillips, Friday 17th May & Saturday 18th May in London. Photo by Gary Thomas

It’s been a busy period for me recently, as I had 2 big events in April – a  film networking party, and then the screening of 2 films I directed – Extra Time, written and produced by Mark Lever, and our fan made Doctor Who episode, written and produced by Richard Holliday with Mark as DOP.

It was great to see both films in front of a good turn out of people. We hired Wimbledon Theatre Studio Space, a really nice studio theatre, and had some 50 people in the audience. What was also great was to gauge the audiences reaction while they were watching both films, some of whom were in the industry. We had feedback forms and the next step will be to go through them and see where improvements need to be made.

The party I mention was one of the last days of Talent Campus, which I did this year. Talent Campus is sort of part of the London Screenwriters Festival – Chris Jones runs it and it was pretty epic to be involved in. ‘The Crucible’ is the name they give to the party where they invite industry and we, as a group of writers, get to meet industry folk who we can collaborate with in the future. It was great to be able to attend this, and I made  some good contacts there. During Talent Campus we wrote 3 pitch documents, one for film, one for TV and one ‘passion project’. I’m on page 40 of my feature script now, a wedding comedy, which I’m enjoying writing. My TV project will take a while longer, as that’s a six part series.

My passion project was a short film script I’d like to direct in the same vein as the wedding comedy. I’d love the wedding comedy to be my first feature as writer – director.

On Sunday I saw Hidden in rehearsals for the first time with Niall Phillips directing. I took a step back from directing this one after Edinburgh a couple of years ago, and it’s on Friday 17th at 7pm & Saturday 18th at 2pm, upstairs at The Cat’s Back in Putney. It was great to watch Niall work with actor McKenzie Alexander.

The show will be on as part of Wandsworth Fringe, which I’ve done for the past four years now, which is always great to be involved in. It’s on at The Cat’s Back, in Putney, on 17th at 7pm and the 18th 2pm.

Would be great to see you there!

Get tickets here: https://www.wandsworthfringe.com/whats-on-2019/hidden-1

3 Things I learnt about Gary Vee.

Top 3 things I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk.

To be honest I could write several posts about Gary. First of all, he’s called Gary, so I already like him.
Second, I’ve learned a lot just by watching his videos. We’re also similar age, which brings me to point number 1 –

1. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is to not worry about age. This is something I do and don’t do, going through it back and forth in my own head. Should I worry about, should I not worry about it. Now I know I no longer need to worry about it.

2. The amount of people that comment / criticize online and then don’t do anything about themselves is horrific. I’ve only had one incidence of this, when my friend Mark & I created ‘Writers Block’, a web series on youtube for writers. We put a link on shooting people and this person, who didn’t use his real name and didn’t have a proper photo, just sent really negative messages questioning why we did it and why we were qualified. Or more precisely telling us we weren’t qualified etc… it was really pointless, and as it was on Shooting People I just left the network after that. I’d say actually I didn’t give a shit about it, (I really didn’t) but the fact that someone was commenting with no real name put me off shooting people forever.

3. Live life for yourself. This is the biggest, and probably the hardest lesson of all. To not worry about what others think. Living YOUR life, for yourself can be done. It’s hard, and it’s all about the work that you put in, but it’s possible. In doing the work, and in the process, you build the life YOU want. It’s a slippery slope if you’re living your life to please others. If you’re interested in any of this, go follow him on insta.

What are your biggest dreams & do you think you’ll achieve them?

Filming Art

Here’s a new series of irregular blogs. Hopefully they’ll be more regular from now on

Last week was unusually full on for me, as I was working everyday away from home, with 2 of those days filming. It was actually a lot of fun, as I got to film in a local art gallery, The Lightbox in Woking. Although it’s local, it’s actually quite a major gallery, and like Doctor Who’s Tardis, it feels a lot bigger on the inside (see what I did there 😂)

I love doing these projects because I can take liberties with types of shots as its an art film about art. Also as I was filming there was some wonderful natural sunlight streaming through the window on to everyone inside. In a non art film that might be annoying, but I really liked it.

I had a contract with DAISY (Disability Arts In Surrey) who commissioned me to make the film. They didn’t want a documentary per se, but just a film about the project, which was to make art inspired by Henry James Pullen and his art work.

We agreed on an outline plan, which included visiting the groups who were making the work during workshops, then at the galleries – there were two involved – The Lightbox, and The Watts gallery, which I visited a couple of weeks ago.

It was fun to see the work and film at the Watts Gallery, a beautiful old building in the middle of nowhere. I filmed Chris Pavia from Stop Gap performing a dance inspired by Henry James Pullen. I also filmed Chris at the Private view at Lightbox.

So on Monday I went to film the installation being set up in at The Lightbox, and I went again on the Thursday to film the private view, where I also got some interviews from the other groups running workshops.

One the way home from the private view I had the idea of putting the 3 or 4 interviews that I had down on the timeline to edit, and that would form the basis of the film. Then it depends whether I want some of the speaker of just have that as voice over with the art work on show.
So that became quite a simple way of getting my head round all the footage that I had. I’m sure the film will turn out well and Daisy we be happy with the finished film.

The Wrong Date – casting news

The Wrong Date

‘The Wrong Date’ is a new short film by writer / director Gary Thomas.

Steve (The Groom) – Martin Laurence

Sharon (The Bride) – Andrea Vasiliou

Andrea has appeared as ‘Young Catwoman’ in The Dark Knight Rises, as well as numerous short films.

Marin Laurence recently appeared in ‘Art House Massacre’, as well as producing.

The horror feature won 2 awards at The British Horror Festival, for best music and best film.